Arts & Entertainment

BONDI: A WINTER HUB OF ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Photo by Chris Peken. Pictured: Rachel Chant and Lucy Heffernam of Rock Surfers Theatre.

Sydneysiders are pulling out their rarely seen scarves and beanies as a mild but chilly winter has settled over the city once again. While dropping temperatures may have many of us at a loss for activities and tempted to hibernate for the season, an unlikely hub of Winter-friendly arts and entertainment has emerged in the iconic seaside suburb of Bondi.

Bondi Winter Magic (a joint initiative of Waverley Council and the Bondi and Districts Chamber of Commerce) overtakes the area for the chilly season, ensuring Sydney’s trendy and relaxed surfer suburb is still brimming with activity and inspiration as the temperatures drop. The Bondi Pavilion’s resident independent theatre company, Rock Surfers Theatre Co., will host Bondi Feast festival celebrating theatre, comedy, music and food over two weeks in July. “We basically take over the whole Pavilion and fill… every nook and cranny… with theatre, comedy, art and people during winter,” says Festival Director Rachel Chant [pictured].

The jewel of Bondi in the wintertime is the astounding Bondi Ice Rink [pictured] as part of Bondi Winter Magic, boasting an even bigger rink than previous years at 455m². Australia’s only beachside ice rink, situated in front of the Bondi Pavilion and overlooking the sparkling bay, it allows up to 190 skaters to glide through at a time. Mayor Sally Betts of Waverly Council considers it “one of Bondi’s most popular attractions at this time of the year” and “a must-do reason to visit Bondi for families across Sydney this winter.” The rink will be open from 10am to 9pm until July 12, with skating sessions starting on the hour. Beginners can take advantage of lessons with experienced skaters, on each weekday morning at 9am.

But outdoor ice-skating is not the only magic weaving under the warm winter sun in Bondi. The Bondi Winter Magic program will also bring music, art and markets to the streets while Bondi’s fine cafes and restaurants offer toasty retreats from the brisk coastal air.

The Bondi Farmers Markets every Saturday morning allow the public to peruse fresh food stalls and meet the growers and makers, whereas you can hunt down a bargain at the regular Bondi Markets of a Sunday where all manner of fashion and home wares are to be discovered (both markets are held at Bondi Beach Public School, Campbell Parade).

“It’s just so good to have so many people up in the Pavilion in the middle of winter,” says Rachel Chant, talking about Bondi Feast, which will run from July 11 to 25. “Bondi isn’t really the place that you’d think to go when it’s lower than twenty degrees outside, so it’s nice to be able to have all the body heat here as well.”

Rock Surfers have brought in their designer to transform the Pavilion Bar on the upper storey into an interactive rumpus room complete with vintage board games, and “murder mystery meets mulled wine” vibes. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm with different food vendors each night, the Pavilion Bar will be a space for the public to hibernate and enjoy delicious drinks and nibbles while taking in the ocean views – whether you want to catch a show (or five) during the evening is up to you.

The bill of shows on the Bondi Feast calendar is truly eclectic, you’d be hard pressed to peruse the 50-plus show offerings over the 11 nights of the season and not find something that didn’t intrigue you in the least.

Sabrina D’Angelo is hilarious and heartfelt in the seriously silly, one-woman action adventure for kids: Zen The Pigeon Girl. Starting during the school holidays on July 7 and wrapping up on the first day Feast, this is a festival pick of Rachel and Rock Surfers Artistic Director Shane Bosher.

Other highlights include comedian Zoe Coombs Marr’s hilarious ‘bogan’ alter ego, Dave, who Rachel describes as a “ridiculously offensive man who is just revolting and hilarious”.

Lucy Heffernam [pictured] is a participant of the most ambitious production project of the festival. The 24 Hour Party Playwright wrangles together a small team of writers and directors to write and produce a brand new play to be performed 24 hours from when the pen is first put to paper, based on a random photo or object they are presented with at the start of the deadline.

The closing night cabaret show, Space Cats, is an intergalactic deep space musical about the first dog in space and a planet of all singing, all dancing sparkly kitty-cats.

In addition to running workshops, holding auditions and hosting artist-networking events throughout Feast, Rock Surfers is also currently fielding submissions for Bondi Indie until early July. “Alongside the works that we will be producing we’re on the hunt for four to five contemporary works which can sit alongside that activity and compliment it,” says Shane. “My take on [independent production] is that getting a slot in a venue for an independent gig in Sydney seems to be as competitive as the rental market.”

There is more than theatre filling the festival schedule however, with exhibitions downstairs in the Pavilion Gallery and Shannen Dooley’s Retrosweat taking over the Seagull Room, a retro dance aerobics class with a mix of ‘80s classic songs and costumes strongly encouraged, it’s a recipe to beat the winter blues.

Bondi doesn’t stop offering up the goods after Feast winds down, Festival Of The Winds kite flying festival promises a colourful day out in September and Sculptures By The Sea returns in October when the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk will be transformed into a 2km long temporary sculpture park.

“This is my favourite time of the year to be out at Bondi,” says Rachel. “The festival vibe that is out here is incredible.”

BONDI WINTER MAGIC
Multiple events and festivals in Bondi throughout Winter 2015. Events, tickets & info: bondiwintermagic.org.au

BONDI ICE RINK
Until July 12. Bondi Pavilion Forecourt, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach. Daily, 10am-9pm. $10-$22. (Family Pass: $65) Tickets & info: bondiwintermagic.org.au

BONDI FEAST FESTIVAL
July 11 – 25. Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach. Individual shows: $15-$20 (some free). Tickets & info: bondifeast.com.au